Your teen has likely heard stories about wisdom teeth removal from their classmates or someone else who has been through the process. Nevertheless, we encourage parents to have a conversation with their children before the day of surgery to help them anticipate and be better prepared for the experience.
What Are Wisdom Teeth
Wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars that most people get in their late teens or early twenties. Biologically speaking, these molars no longer serve a purpose. So what were they even for?
Early humans lived on a diet very different from our own. In fact, their diet consisted mostly of roots, leaves, nuts, and raw meat. As you can imagine, these foods were quite tough to chew so they relied heavily on their wisdom teeth to help.
Now that we know how to cook, chop, and blend our foods to soften them, we really don’t need wisdom teeth anymore.
Does Everyone Have Wisdom Teeth?
Not everyone has to contend with this third set of molars. For many people, the issue of whether or not to remove wisdom teeth is a moot point. Still, others may experience impacted wisdom teeth.
This means that the teeth are there in the jaw, but haven’t erupted through the gums — and they never will. The only way you’ll know they are there is by having dental x-rays done.
Both impacted and visible wisdom teeth can cause health issues, however. In fact, the impacted variety can cause greater problems than their visible counterpoints.
When Do Wisdom Teeth Appear?
The average age when most people see their wisdom teeth break through the gums is 19. By this time, your child’s jaw has generally stopped growing. As a result, the appearance of these third molars often presents some serious problems in the mouth.
Again, it may seem curious that humans still have these extraneous teeth, given that there is no longer space in the mouth to accommodate them. Anthropologists theorize that the human jaw has become smaller over time. This shrinkage is due not only to our change in diet, as outlined above, but also to the fact that our brains have grown and the structure of the skull has changed to make more room.
What Problems Can Wisdom Teeth Cause?
The most common issues associated with wisdom teeth include crowded or crooked teeth. The wisdom teeth themselves may grow very crooked or even sideways — often leading to jaw pain. In other cases, patients may even experience sinus pain and infections as a result of having wisdom teeth that should be removed.
Additionally, since wisdom teeth sit so far back in your mouth, it can be difficult to adequately brush and floss them. This can often result in tooth decay, not just in the molars but also in the surrounding teeth.
If you have wisdom teeth and find that they are easy to brush and take care of, you may opt to not have them removed.
When Should Wisdom Teeth Removal Take Place?
Naturally, you will want to consult with your child’s dentist regarding when (or if the need even exists) to remove one or more wisdom teeth. However, there are a couple of factors that indicate extraction should take place sooner rather than later.
For one thing, teenagers or young adults have an easier time recovering from surgery than older adults. This is simply because their bodies are more resilient. In the case of wisdom tooth surgery, the roots of those molars, along with the surrounding bone of the jaw, is likely to still be developing. That makes surgery easier and less painful for the patient.
Second, if your teenager will require orthodontic treatment to correct misaligned teeth, gaps between the teeth, or other issues, the outcome may be better if the wisdom teeth have already been removed. As mentioned earlier, wisdom teeth can impact other teeth, causing them to be crooked or crowded or to overlap. Removing them may lessen the problem, but if not, it can make the orthodontic treatment easier and shorten its duration.
How Will You Know if Wisdom Teeth Are Causing a Problem?
Your child’s dentist will be monitoring the presence or absence of the third molars, and will advise you as to whether or not they may be problematic and necessitate removal.
However, if your teen expresses any of the following symptoms in between regular dental checkups, it may be a sign that his or her wisdom teeth require some attention.
- Pain in the jaw
- Tenderness in the mouth
- Swelling of the gums
- Discharge, which could be a sign of an abscess or infection
You may also see the wisdom teeth as they break through the gums. Make an appointment with your child’s dentist if any of these symptoms occur.
What Does Wisdom Tooth Surgery Entail?
In many cases, having a wisdom tooth extracted is no different from having any other tooth pulled. Your teenager will have a local anesthetic applied so that she or he does not feel any pain. It’s also possible to have this procedure performed under sedation.
Wisdom tooth removal can be complicated, however. These teeth have multiple roots; if the roots are fused together or are irregularly shaped or curved, removing them may be more difficult.
Does Your Teenager Require Wisdom Tooth Removal?
Surgery for wisdom teeth removal is routine, can prevent problems related to tooth decay and crowding, and adds to an individual’s quality of life. If your teenager is suffering because of his or her wisdom teeth, get in touch with us today. We’d be happy to answer any questions you may have or provide a consultation to ensure your child’s dental and general health.